Well, another year is in the books.
After finishing out our winter stay in North Fort Myers FL we headed out on Mar 15 with scheduled stops in Jacksonville FL and Charleston SC before arriving in Fairfax VA in early May. After dental and financial appointments we headed south to Midlothian VA to visit the human kids and found out that Jen was pregnant with a due date of late December. From there we headed down to Sevierville TN for the RV Dreams Spring rally then hopscotched across Kentucky, southern Illinois and Missouri before arriving at Camp Horizons in Junction City KS in mid June. The rig needed some warranty work as our warranty was expiring in July and we wanted to get a couple things added/changed so we left the rig there and drove to Kansas City where we caught a flight to Dublin Ireland for the next 3.5 weeks. After spending a weekend in Dublin seeing the sights we picked pour rental car and spent 3 weeks driving a pretty much clockwise path around Ireland and Northern Ireland. Driving over there was a bit of a challenge but not in the manner that we thought. Sure; they drive on the left (wrong) side of the road but Neil had driven under those conditions before and that part of it didn’t really bother us much…we just kept our eyes open at roundabouts for the first couple of days until the backwardness of it became normal. What did present a problem (well, more of one than the left lane driving) was being on the wrong side of the car. Since they drive on the left over there the driver sits on the right…and that completely discombobulates your 40something years of driving experience as the change in perspective and point of view makes it really, really hard to stay in your lane.
We did notice a few oddities from our time in Ireland though…the biggest thing was the roads…or lack thereof. Sure; they’ve got roads and they’re paved (mostly) and everything…but they don’t grade them smooth and straighten out the curves like we do in the US. The roads over there grew up being first foot paths then cart paths and pretty much follow the contours of the land. When they were paved and turned into motorways for cars they just paved them. The net result is that the roads are really narrow and have lots of curves on them. Almost all of them are just 2 lanes but despite this the speed limit was usually 100 kph or about 62 miles an hour…and a great deal of the time it would be impossible to stay on the road if you were going the speed limit. Add in that a lot of the roads aren’t actually 2 lanes wide but only about 1 and a quarter…which means when you meet up with another car somebody has to either pull over or back up. In the states…this would result in a lot of posturing and road rage…but in Ireland it just means that whoever has the easiest place to squeeze over into a drive entrance or back up 10 feet to get to a wider spot on the shoulder just does it. No muss, no fuss, no arguments…we found the people over there to be very polite and this carried forward into their driving and general courteous behavior as well.
The second biggest thing we noticed was that a lot of the famous places/tourist attractions/things to see are at the end of skinny little roads and on private property which may or may not have sheep grazing on it…but that nobody minds if you open the gate and continue along to whatever it is you’re going to see as long as you close the gate behind you so the livestock doesn’t wander off.
The third thing we noticed was that most of the famous places/tourist attractions/things to see would not be allowed to be open at all in the US as the OSHA safety people wouldn’t allow it. For instance…everybody’s heard of the Blarney Stone which is up at the top of Blarney Castle (well, it’s more of a fortified manor house than what we would perceive as a castle but I digress). Anyway; along the top of the castle there’s a little wall around the parapet with some drain holes periodically in it…the Blarney Stone is underneath one of these drain holes and you have to lay on your back, grab a couple of bars, and lean down into the hole to kiss the stone. Add in the 3 foot total diameter circular staircase with absolutely no handholds you have to climb 120 feet or so up to get to the roof and the equally steep stairs to get back down…and well, this place just would not be open to the public in the US. It wasn’t just the Blarney Castle either…almost every place we went was like this.
The fourth thing we noticed (well, it was actually the second but again I digress) was that the most popular beer in Ireland is (naturally) Guinness…but the second most popular beer is Bud Lite. After noticing multiple Bud Lite taps in the first 3 or 4 pubs we visited we asked the pub man about it and he said that it’s what the 20somethings drink…because “it’s the imported stuff” he said. He then told us that it’s actually brewed at the Guinness brewery in Dublin using Bud’s recipe and while we agreed that it did taste a whole better than US Bud Lite it was still Bud Lite and why anybody would drink it when they had Guinness, Murphy’s, Beamish, and Magners available was simply beyond understanding.
After our 3 week trip we arrived back in Dublin and flew home…then back to Junction City to get the rig. Naturally…despite the fact that we had been gone 3+ weeks…none of our items were completed so after our arrival about noon Monday we finally headed out on Friday. Our goal for the rest of the summer was to go north into the upper midwest since we had never been there. We traveled through MO, IA, the Dakotas, MN, WI and the upper peninsula of MI then back down through the Cleveland OH area, IN, OH, PA, and MD back Fairfax where we again spent a week. After that we headed south for another stop in Midlothian VA to see the human kids again then over to Knoxville to see Neil’s sister MJ. From there we went straight south to Santa Rosa Beach FL on the Gulf Coast for a week then after another week in Cedar Key FL arrived back in North Fort Myers on Nov 1.
We stayed here a week then headed back up to Mayo in northern FL to get solar panels installed on our roof and an aux diesel tank installed in BAT so we can go farther without refueling. After that we arrived back in Fort Myers and thought we were fixed until after the holidays. Jen’s baby Alex had other ideas however…and arrived on Dec 12…so naturally after he and Jen came home on the 15th we drove the 1000 miles up there to visit for a couple days then drove back to Fort Myers. What with the holidays and getting ready for them we stayed pretty busy through the end of the year. Here are a couple shots of the little munchkin.
Minutes old…still has wrinkled skin from being wet for 9 months
Still in the hospital…shot from their photographer
Lifting his head up at 2 weeks old
Dressed up for his first Christmas
Trying to capture the whole traveling season in photos would make this post very, very long…but here are a few just to stimulate your interest. There are many more posted in our blog archives and much more detail on things and places in there as well. These are mostly chronological.
Osprey in Jacksonville
Hike in Charleston
Union Lines at the Cold Harbor Battlefield
Train bridge in KY
Starting our Ireland trip…we had many pints of this Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale a few weeks back in Kentucky…but this was in the first pub we went into in Dublin on our arrival.
First Ireland Brew (or maybe second…can’t remember which).
A mini Stone Henge
Here we are on the Loch
One of the local fauna
See what I mean with the roads?
Cliffs of Moher
Another great road…can ya believe the speed limit is 62 miles an hour?
This was a convent believe it or not
On the way out to the eastern end of the first trans Atlantic telegraph transmission
and along this goat path; the antennas were setup near the rock formation at the far right distance
Puffins on Skellig Michael Island…about 8 miles off the coast and the site of a monastery up until about 1200 AD or so
Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland
The site of the Ojibway village in Minnesota where Neil’s ancestor was the translator for the first treaty between the US government and the Michigan Indians. English call them Chippewa but Ojibway is what they called themselves.
Another Osprey; back in Cedar Key FL
Our plans for the 2015 travel season are to leave here on Apr 5. After another week in Jacksonville we’ll head up the east coast with 2 more stops at yet to be determined places to arrive in Fairfax in early May. After dental and financial appointments we’ll stop back by Midlothian and drop the car off with the kids for pickup later in September. We’ve got another RV Dreams Rally scheduled for late May in Marion NC. Once that’s over we head to Elkhart IN to get the rig brakes and bearings checked before making a quick dash across the country (2,100 miles in about 3 weeks) to arrive in Dawson Creek BC in late June.
The major portion of our summer will be spent on a 60 day caravan from Dawson Creek up to Alaska, BC and the Yukon with the trip finishing up in Prince George BC about 300 miles north of Vancouver the end of August. The caravan will be about 4,800 miles plus miles we drive for seeing stuff while camped. We’re really looking forward to the trip which will include a trip up to Gates of the Arctic National Park at Anaktuvuk Pass AK and one to Katmai National Park in King Salmon AK for bear viewing (although Connie isn’t going on the latter one…she’s seen enough bears).
From Prince George we will have just a bit over 3 weeks to get back to Midlothian VA where the 2015 World Bike Racing Championships are taking place…another 4,100 miles in 24 days…seems like we’re doing a lot of relatively high speed traveling next summer. Once the bike racing championships are over we have a leisurely trip back to Cedar Keys…only 1100 miles or so and almost 4 whole weeks to get there. After another 10 days in Cedar Key we’ll again arrive in Fort Myers on Nov 1, 2015 for the winter.
- Countries visited: 4 (US, Canada, Ireland, Northern Ireland)
- States visited: 24
- BAT Miles: 8,755
- RV Miles: 8,235
- Car Miles: 19,808
- Campgrounds stayed in: 37 (27 taking away the two extended stops at Seminole, the time in New Horizons parking lot and the 7 overnight only stops)
- Average stay length: 7.1 days (not counting the periods in the bullet above)
- Average stay length (all campgrounds): 9.9 days
- Number of RV travel days: 38 (not counting the Ireland trip where traveled pretty much every day)
- Average travel day miles: 216 (maximum of 310 and minimum of 88)
- Highest altitude reached: no idea; we weren’t really in any mountains this year but probably about 1,200 feet
- Lowest altitude reached: sea level
- Northernmost and southernmost points reached: Giants Causeway UK 55.2406ºN and North Fort Myers FL 26.7189ºN
- Easternmost and Westernmost points reached: Belfast, UK 5.9041ºW and Junction City KS 96.8736ºW
- Photographs taken: 6.818 frames for 154 GB
- Photographs published: 1,127
- Blog posts published: 104
- Blog views: 4,800, busiest day was Sep 29 with 118 views. Most popular post that day was More Fun Stuff©
- Countries that visited our blog: 87; top visiting countries were the US, Brazil, and the UK
- Most viewed blog posts: Gillette Castle, Chapman Falls and Rocky Neck State Park and Beach from Aug 2012, Travel Day to Dale Hollow State Resort Park, Burkesville KY from May 2014, and Day Trip to Red River Scenic Gorge from May 2014
- Top referring web sites were Twitter.com, Facebook.com, and everything-everywhere.com
- Most popular blogging day was Wednesday
- Longest daily posting streak was 13 days from June 23 to July 5…while we were on our trip to Ireland
- Most commented on post was Day T rip to Red River Scenic Gorge from May 14 with 8 comments
- Blog Champion Commenter: Neil’s sister MJ Trainor with 55 (again) followed by Neil’s brother Ron and Connie’s sister Cindy